Carol Joy Shannon’s paintings are about cities. At least that’s the most immediately apparent impression. The lines and angles and colors conjure up a world created by human hands, a contrast to the softer forms of nature.
But Shannon’s paintings are much more than just a collection of buildings or, at their most abstract, an arrangement of forms. They’re a natural transition from wildlife painting to what Shannon calls “structured abstract.”
“I found that I loved painting abstracts because they really let our imaginations free,” explained Shannon. “But I also found that I needed focal points and some structure – so I started adding blocks and outlines, and the response was instant – the pieces won prizes and went onto walls.”
Inspired by the “hard-edged color” of mid-century modern aesthetics, the shift to painting cities was as pragmatic as it was a conscious artistic choice.
“The prevailing wisdom for writers is ‘write what you know,’” said Shannon. “What did I know? I knew cities. I’d lived in some splendid ones: London, Monte Carlo, Venice, Paris, Miami, Seattle, Las Vegas – why not paint them?”
To date, she’s painted at least 100 cities.
But in the Lowcountry, it’s impossible not to be awed by the landscape. When Shannon moved back to South Carolina in 2014, her work started incorporating more marsh and less concrete.
“A year or so ago I had a really nice, large scale landscape that looked like Lowcountry saltmarsh, but just needed something. It hung in my living room for several weeks (I always do this) and one day I saw a heron in it. When I painted it in, it just worked,” she said.
Shannon also paints a series of small pieces that celebrate military and public safety veterans. She said the paintings bring in something more valuable than money – the stories. A portion of each sale benefits charity.
But even with her steadily evolving styles and inspirations, Shannon says she wants to make sure that her art is challenging but accessible.
“As a self-taught artist who has painted 6 days a week for the last 17 years, I realized early on that my chances of being in MOMA or on the cover of “Artist” Magazine were small. But what I could do is paint what pleases me and might please other people,” she explained.
“I just want to bring color and light into people’s homes.”
Check out more of Shannon’s work at Art Mecca of Charleston.